Peter Heller takes readers on another thrilling wilderness adventure in The Guide ... Heller is an expert at building suspense, and he’s a first-rate nature writer, lending authenticity to the wealth of wilderness details he provides ... He also uses a notable layout technique—adding space between each paragraph—that makes readers turn his thrilling pages even faster. One warning, however: Heller’s novels...are not for the faint of heart. Still, The Guide is a glorious getaway in every sense, a wild wilderness trip as well as a suspenseful journey to solve a chilling mystery.
... if you’re of a darker, more contemplative frame of mind, there’s something cathartic about Peter Heller’s latest novel, The Guide, an ever so subtly dystopian wilderness noir that speculates on the horrors of a post-pandemic society ... The enticing mystery keeps the pages turning, but not too quickly. The Guide is too beautifully written to speed through it, the descriptions of nature lush and vivid. Rarely has fishing felt so poetic, tying a lure so much like art ... Heller doesn’t much need to use the word "COVID" to evoke the virus’ specter. He peppers the text with unsettlingly subtle references to the pandemic...The dread mounts, but so too does the intrigue – and the sexual tension ... Perhaps the ending offers too tidy a resolution. To ask readers after the past year to still believe it’s possible for good to conquer evil is a tall order. But then making a cautionary tale on the widening divide between the haves and have nots in the era of COVID-19 go down so smooth is a tall order too, and Heller accomplishes that nicely.
Heller pulls off a rare balancing act once again: He gives us fast-paced action and intrigue, interspersed with closely observed, reflective nature writing...Speed up for the crime-solving, slow down for the Zen ... What holds it all together is the likeable character of Jack ... As in Maclean’s books, fishing gets its own star turn. It’s a source of solace, focus and connection. Heller uses many opportunities to capture it poetically, keeping the river at the center of this tale, too.
Heller’s conservationist streak is evident in the way he writes the novel’s villains, a gang of vulgar capitalists plundering nature with the aid of assault rifles and tricked-out pickups. In the book’s finale, the violators are met with an Old Testament wrath, a revenge fantasy bloody enough to make John Rambo blush ... Flat dialogue and implausible plot elements doom The Guide as a piece of literature, but it’s the perspective that defangs it as a thriller. The pseudo-omniscient narrator is clued into the lodge’s secrets long before Jack and Alison, leaving the couple to stumble through obvious twists and telegraphing climactic reveals. For such a placid suspense novel, The Guide lacks the interior monologue that a more limited point-of-view would bestow. Jack is, by turns, an Ivy League golden boy, blue-collar simpleton, shellshocked survivor and bloodthirsty vigilante, inviolable save for his inexplicable mood swings; without insight into his doubts and fears, there’s never any reason to believe he won’t save the day. Where Jack is a cipher, the vantage elevates Alison to virtual sainthood, identifiable only by her generosity and impeccable morals ... If this makes The Guide resemble a dopey summer blockbuster, perhaps that’s by design. In its current, highly variegated model, the vacation thriller is more companionable than immersive, an embellishment for weekend getaways rather than a stand-alone exercise. To that end, Heller’s unorthodox pacing feels deliberate: You can crack open “The Guide” at cocktail hour, read a few pages of his florid topographical depictions, and forget all about the hostage plot at the book’s core. Still, there’s a sense he’s reaching for something weightier. The real villains in Heller’s fiction aren’t the double agents and gun-toting mercenaries, they’re the extractive industries and insatiable culture imperiling his beloved western vistas. He’d be wise to try a format less impervious to his own argument.
Heller offers a suspenseful story ... Heller’s lyrical prose and vivid descriptions of fly fishing in a pristine river are magnificent ... You don’t need to read The River to appreciate The Guide, but I highly recommend the earlier book. The River actually offers an added layer of complexity, as Jack and his companion struggle to survive a wildfire in addition to facing down some menacing folks ... Heller’s nature writing is sublime, but his dialogue is occasionally a bit too witty and clipped ... Still, Heller, influenced by Joseph Conrad and Jack London, has proven again that he is one of the finest writers of the literary thriller.
The Guide is not really a mystery, nor is it an outdoor guide. It is a literary work and a paean to fishing, as inspiring as A River Runs Through It. Heller is poetic when he describes what fishing means to Jack ... At times, the story is overblown, and Jack becomes something of an action figure, but those are minor criticisms. The Guide is a beautifully written book, a tribute to Colorado, its bounty and its ability to heal the soul.
In his new mystery, author Peter Heller pulls off a rare balancing act once again: He gives us fast-paced action and intrigue, interspersed with closely observed, reflective nature writing ... Fishing gets its own star turn. It’s a source of solace, focus and connection. Heller uses many opportunities to capture it poetically, keeping the river at the center of this tale, too.
Heller presents another brilliantly paced, unnerving wilderness thriller paired with an absorbing depiction of a remote natural paradise ... Masterful evocations of nature are not surprising, given Heller’s award-winning nonfiction about his own outdoor experiences, while his ability to inject shocking menace into a novel that might otherwise serve as a lyrical paean to nature is remarkable.
... soulful ... This is an unconventional mystery, an unconventional romance, and an unconventional adventure, creepy and spiritual in equal measure ... The author clearly knows his way around a river; the long, descriptive passages create a vivid sense of place and action even if they may puzzle those of us who don’t know a mayfly from a riffle ... There's danger at the end of the line in this unconventional mystery.
... captivating ... Heller’s lush descriptions of fishing and river country are matched with a riveting, surprising mystery that captures the difference between the filthy rich and everyone else. The novel’s speculative approach to the lingering effects of Covid-19 is frightening in its subtlety and one of the book’s special charms. Readers looking for a credible couple and a story of redemption will love this.